Cookie mentioned it when we were talking on Swanborough, that Tuesday looked good, then later this came round on email:
Tuesday looking good, with the potential for being a classic XC day. Front going thru late Monday, embedded in ridge, with high pushing on the Tuesday, 2 degrees Monday night and going to 13-14 degrees during the day, possible 5000ft base. Thermal map says up to 525ftmin (but RASP out of date @ Friday PM), with some spreadout, although now looks like high pushing in more than expected so this may negate the spreadout. Westbury would be a good choice I think. No pilot should even consider working on Tuesday!“
So first thing on Monday morning I booked the day off. From then on all I could think about was thermalling, I saw myself climb to 5000ft and fly to Lewes and maybe to Heathfield and then who knows.
The reality however was very different, I found the flying very physical and landed tired each time. On my first flight I had a new flying suit on and some new gloves that made movement awkward and my grip slippy so I landed early after ironically coming up from really low over the trees.
On the second flight I did connect with a few thermals and followed one back convinced that if I just focused on centering then it may take me to cloud base. However it became simply a drifting “0” and by that time I was committed to an out landing so I stuck with it as long as I could and landed next to the road.
During the final flight I felt like I was just not settling at all into the air at all, my attention was flitting from one thing to another. No one thing made this happen I just felt scatty in the air. I did however circle a few times in thermals with a couple of pilots which was nice to do. Paul and I scratched at the modelers bowl for a while – he was putting in nice tight 360’s and I was using figure of eight’s he gained height and I just survived at the ridge. I was looking at others as obstacles rather than as indications of lift, I would turn away from a climbing paraglider to avoid him rather than fly to them to join them in lift, In the end I recognised that I was getting tired, just as well because after a nice approach right at the last 20ft I was turned 45º and just hung on like a lemon rather than counter it, luckily all was ok.
For me it was my “XC” and the scratching that defined the day. Listening to Cookie talk about how the air changed when he went through 4000ft and how lift was everywhere at 6000ft felt like he was talking a different language to me. Nothing of what he was saying related in any way to my experience. I am fairly sure that my flight if its is could be the shortest ever recorded excursion from the Dyke, and on BIG Tuesday, not very big at all. I am glad I tried though, you have to start somewhere.
I was initially unhappy with the day but as I write I think it was a good one, I learned a lot about hanging on and trying, about letting go and flying off with some lift, one day I will talk that same language and feel the cold air above.